By Suzy Christopher and Anna Parisi, Untapped
Many organisations have a formal EDI (equity, diversity and inclusion) policy in place, which demonstrates a clear intent that you don’t (and won’t) discriminate against people with lived experience of the nine Protected Characteristics named in the 2010 Equality Act.
However, a policy alone won’t add value to your business. Most organisations with only a policy fail in their EDI ambitions. Instead, everyone in your organisation needs to be living and breathing inclusion day in day out, which means communicating using inclusive language and accessible channels, as well as having equitable policies and processes in place.
And this isn’t just about your approach to employees. How you communicate and engage with prospective talent, customers, partners, suppliers, the media – with ALL stakeholders – must be inclusive, equitable and accessible too.
When it comes to EDI best-practice, disability is often underestimated
However, the sad truth is that even when organisations spend time, effort and budget building and nurturing an inclusive culture and demonstrating their EDI credentials, disability is all-to-often omitted.
Today very few businesses capture data around disability from their employees. As a result, they underestimate its prevalence. In an attempt to shine a light on this issue, the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) released a new report in May, ‘Your Workforce Includes People with Disabilities. Does Your People Strategy?’. It reveals that most organisations report that their workplace includes relatively few disabled employees (just 4% to 7% on average). Yet, it says, 25% of employees around the world identify as having a disability or medical condition that limits a major life activity.
Whether you know if or not, it’s extremely likely that you have disabled people in your workforce as well as people with a disabled child or family member. If you’re ignoring disability inclusion within the workplace culture and environment, if you don’t understand if your physical and digital environments are accessible, you’re risking your organisation’s productivity, employee wellbeing and attrition as well as your reputation amongst your customers and other stakeholders.
Disability is the world’s largest minority group
Disability is the world’s largest minority group – a group which any of us can join at any time and which we’re ALL likely to join if we have the privilege of reaching old age. Taking just the UK, around 18% of the population is disabled today – that’s 16 million people according to leading disability charity Scope.
Disabled people and their households have a collective spending power – known as the Purple Pound – of £274 billion. That’s a lot of cash – cash which organisations will lose out on if they exclude disabled people. The good news is that meeting their needs and expectations isn’t as difficult as it may seem – and it creates surprising benefits.
Embed disability inclusion into your EDI strategy
Today shockingly few organisations proactively seek to engage with disabled people when it comes to developing their strategies and campaigns.
Why? One of the biggest reasons for ignoring disability is fear. People are scared of saying the wrong thing to a disabled person or about disability because they’re worried about causing offence.
Another is ignorance. People with no lived experience rarely think about disability or consider the everyday barriers that disabled people face. They don’t realise that our society and our workplaces are fundamentally inaccessible.
Your business may be part of the problem, and you may not even know it! It’s time to remove the stigma surrounding disability, untap the huge value that embracing disability inclusion can bring and leap over your competition.
Good communication is key
To bring this to life you must ensure that you communicate both inclusively and accessibly to reach and engage disabled people, to hear their views and feedback, and to adapt your approach.
The great news is that it’s never too late to start being truly inclusive.
Some key questions to spark your thinking are:
- Are we accessible to disabled people? (Think about your physical locations as well as digital environments and channels).
- How can we ensure that our employee and customer experiences are brilliant for disabled people?
- Is disability inclusion really embedded into our comms/marketing/digital strategy?
- Is disability accurately represented in our comms and marketing campaigns?
- Are our communications materials and campaigns accessible?
It’s critical to listen to disabled voices as you go. If you adapt your content and campaigns accordingly, you’ll reap the rewards.
Simple steps everybody can take immediately
Everybody has a role to play in removing barriers for disabled people – the little things really matter. We all do so much digitally these days, and the great news is that most of the apps we all use have built-in accessibility features.
Many of you will use social media personally and for business. As a starting point, here are two top tips for social posts. They’re so simple to implement that there’s no excuse not to get cracking immediately:
- When you share a photo via a social media channel, use the app’s built-in ‘alt text’ functionality or write an image description within the post itself. Keep it simple – say what you see.
- Whenever you write a hashtag, capitalise the first letter of each word in the hashtag. This is called #CamelCase.
Doing both will signal to your audiences your clear intent to communicate more inclusively and to be more accessible.
Of course, true inclusion needs to be embedded into your strategy, not just demonstrated through your tactics – but every journey starts with a step.